L.A. investors acquire Palm Springs hotel

A historic downtown Palm Springs hotel linked to mobsters and movie stars has been sold to Los Angeles investors for $15 million.

The 57-room Colony Palms Hotel was acquired by real estate developer Michael Rosenfeld and his Woodridge Capital Partners in a joint venture with an affiliate of Oaktree Capital Management.

The hotel was built in 1936 by Al Wertheimer, a reputed member of Detroit’s Purple Gang, which specialized in bootlegging and other criminal pursuits. The Colonial House, as the hotel was then called, had an underground speak-easy and a brothel reached via a secret staircase behind a pantry cupboard.

It was a popular getaway for such Hollywood legends as Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Carol Lombard.

The hotel remained a celebrity magnet under later owners including actress Amanda Leeds Howard and boxing champion Jack Dempsey. Regular visitors included Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes and Ronald Reagan.


Palm Springs lost its luster in the late 20th century, but has begun to recapture its appeal for young leisure travelers from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, said John Strauss, a real estate broker at Jones Lang LaSalle who represented the seller.

“There is a growing critical mass of trendy boutique hotels that have been renovated or opened new,” Strauss said. “It’s very pedestrian-friendly.”

The Colony Palms was sold by an affiliate of Pacifica Capital Group, which acquired the property in 2004 and redeveloped it.

Rosenfeld has other hotel holdings with Oaktree including the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles and Fairmont hotels in San Francisco and Hawaii.


Union alleges JPMorgan effort

Wall Street titan JPMorgan Chase & Co. is trying to torpedo a proposed Century City skyscraper that might compete with nearby office buildings owned by the bank, a labor union official alleged last week.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) intervened on behalf of unions with a letter to JPMorgan Chairman Jamie Dimon, asking him to stop the bank’s asset management office from opposing the proposed 37-story Century City Center project at Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard.

“JPMorgan Chase received billions of dollars in bailout money and now is trying to kill valuable construction jobs in California,” De Leon’s office said.

The bank issued a statement of qualified support Friday for the $350-million project, proposed by longtime Century City landlord JMB Realty Corp., that is wending its way through the city’s approval process.

“JPMorgan Chase is not opposed to the development ... as long as it is built within the existing zoning standards that have been agreed to and used for decades in an effort to protect local residential and commercial property owners,” the bank said.

Earlier, union leader Robbie Hunter of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building Trades Council said bank representatives told him they would oppose the project, which could create thousands of construction jobs.

The fact that union funds have been invested with JPMorgan made the bank’s move more irksome, Hunter said. “Our pension money was being used against us,” Hunter said. “People are more interested in moving money around than investing in bricks and mortar, and that’s what creates jobs.”


Inland Empire apartments sold

A Beverly Hills investor has bought garden-style apartment complexes in Rancho Cucamonga and Montclair as the Inland Empire apartment market continues to improve for landlords.

Triumph Management Co. bought the 232-unit Heritage Park Alta Loma in Rancho Cucamonga and the 144-unit Heritage Park Montclair, both of which were built in the mid-1980s and serve only tenants who are seniors.

Terms of the purchase from Denver real estate investment trust Aimco were not disclosed, but real estate experts familiar with the Inland Empire valued the deal at $25 million to $30 million.

Triumph has a Southern California apartment portfolio of more than 1,200 units and has spent nearly $40 million in the last 18 months on properties in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Orange and San Diego counties, Vice President Noah Hochman said.

“Demographic and economic trends are creating a demand for rental housing, and with supply constrained in many parts of Southern California, we feel it is a very good time to buy,” Hochman said.

Apartment vacancy in the Inland Empire will drop to 4.2% this year, the lowest level since the end of 2005, real estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap said. Rents will climb 3.4% to an average of $1,004 a month.